Sensory Toys & Loose Parts for 1-3 year olds
Sensory play is one of those amazing tools that once you have discovered it, there is no going back. Often we think of sensory play and loose parts play as complicated to set up or messy. However once you can get the right sensory gear, this type of play for 1-3 year olds can be easy to set up and quick to clean.
See the below lists of some of my favorite picks for sensory bins and loose parts play for 1- 3 year olds. I have divided it according to age with the intention of giving you a place to start. In other words: what is listed for 1 year olds is like the core starting place for building your sensory bin setup. You can of course mix and match between the age groups and also always follow your child’s lead in terms of their unique interests and types of sensory play that they most enjoy.
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Sensory bin essentials for 1 year olds
Sensory bins are a great way to encourage independent play in 1 year olds. It is however to steer clear of choking hazards and always be present and alert with your 1 year old when playing with sensory bins and loose parts. Some of our favorite sensory bins for one year olds are water play, bubble bins, and cooked and dyed pasta bins (as pictured above).
8 supplies for sensory bins with 1 year olds
- Sensory table or a water table or big bins,
- Scoops and cups
- Shaving cream
- Big drip sheet, old shower curtain or a contained sensory play mat for putting under
- Popsicle sticks
- Wooden disks
Sensory play and loose parts for 2 year olds
2 year olds love sensory play! Whether its smashing and cutting playdough, or digging their hands deep into a bowl of oobleck. This is the type of play that can really captivate your 2 year old. If you haven’t already, make sure to get some of the above supplies specifically something to put the sensory materials in, something to clean up the mess and some spoons or scoops.
While children tend to put things in their mouths less by age two, you will still need to watch out for choking hazards and be present and alert while kids are playing with certain sensory materials.
10 essential loose parts and sensory bin accessories for 2 year olds
- Kinetic sand
- water beads
- bicarbonate of soda and vinegar
- corn flour
- food coloring
- dried rice and pasta
- artificial flowers
- various beans
Loose Parts and sensory bins for 3 year olds
By age 3 we begin to see our children not only playing independently with loose part and sensory materials but also playing in very creative ways. This is a great time to add art materials, figurines and even building toys to your sensory play.
Around this age children also become more coordinated. This means that you can start using those more complicated droppers and scoopers to also support their fine motor development.
Favorite loose parts for 3 year olds
- Round scoopers
- Test tubes
- STEM based kids kits (like making soap, volcanoes)
- Glass beads
- Colored stones
Looking for more ideas? Head back to the ultimate gift guide for 1- 3 year olds.